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Like a Phoenix Reborn, Ashes Rises from the Ashes

W. Eric Martin
United States
North Carolina
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Board Game Publisher: Plaid Hat Games
In February 2020, Plaid Hat Games regained its independence as a publisher by splitting from Asmodee, which had purchased Plaid Hat's owner in 2016.

Some Plaid Hat titles stayed behind with various Asmodee studios, while other titles remained under PHG's control. One title not mentioned in my Feb. 2020 article about the split was brought up in the first comment on that post: "Maybe more Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn in the future now!? Please p!ease please!?"

Board Game: Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn

The same day that Plaid Hat split from Asmodee, Ashes designer Isaac Vega announced that he was leaving PHG on good terms to go off on his own, so more Ashes seemed unlikely — but in fact the game will be returning, but not as players might have initially expected. Thanks to a partnership between PHG and Team Covenant, which runs a retail game store in Tulsa, Oklahoma and maintains a subscription service for CCGs and other games that feature regular releases, new Ashes expansions will be released every quarter.

From gallery of W Eric Martin
As PHG's Niki Shults explained to me, the idea behind this new release format originated with Plaid Hat founder Colby Dauch, "The core of the idea being, is there a way to make the minimum viable audience for an expandable game smaller, [which will allow] a dedicated base of fans to enjoy the game for much longer that would otherwise be viable. Team Covenant and Colby ended up in a conversation at GAMA [Expo 2020] where these ideas were discussed and a partnership was born."

The first release from this Ashes Reborn subscription service is the Ashes Reborn 1.5 Upgrade Kit, which consists of more than 350 "rebalanced, redesigned, and reprinted Ashes 1.0" cards, which is approximately 30% of the entire Ashes card pool. As PHG explains:
Why 1.5? We've gone through every single card that has been released for the game and have assessed and reevaluated each one. It's the same game you've always loved, but many cards have been reworded, improved, or rebalanced, and all will appear in the Upgrade Kit. Future printings of the core Rise of the Phoenixborn set, as well as all the expansions, will be updated to include 1.5 revisions.
The Ashes base set and current expansions (other than one deck mentioned in the next paragraph) will be reprinted with these 1.5 version cards, with Shults estimating that these updated expansion packs will be available before the end of 2020 via Plaid Hat's online store and participating retailers.

The next release in this subscription service will be the new deluxe expansion deck The Breaker of Fate. This deck features the Phoenixborn character Jericho Kill, whose original deck — The Path of Assassins — won the Ashes tournament in 2018, which means this deck will be retired from production and replaced with this new deck, The Breaker of Fate, in which Jericho Kill will now wield time magic with brand-new cards and new time dice.

From gallery of W Eric Martin

Three Phoenixborn characters who have existed solely on promotional cards to date — Dimona Odinstar, Orrick Gilstream, and Lulu Firststone — will be published with their own decks at some point in the future, with the regular quarterly expansions from PHG and Team Covenant consisting of two Phoenixborn expansions for $30.

Shults notes that "Plaid Hat is still fully in charge of developing and revising the updated cards and future expansions", with these elements being produced at the same facilities as the original game and earlier expansions. Isaac Vega is still involved with the game's world-building and art direction, while the development team is now led by Nick Conley, who was the former lead playtester for Ashes.

Once Team Covenant ships the Ashes Reborn 1.5 Upgrade Kit to subscribers, that kit — along with the 1.5 versions of the Ashes line mentioned earlier — will be available for purchase directly from Plaid Hat Games. New Ashes expansions will be sold on the PHG website 1-3 months after being shipped to subscribers, with these products being available to players outside North America through the normal retail distribution chain (assuming those distributors and retailers purchase these items, of course).

Board Game: Ashes: Orrick Gilstream Promo Card
Also returning...

In North America, however, the Team Covenant subscription service and the PHG website might be the only places to find these items. "We supported the game for as long as we could using the usual method of selling to a distributor, who sells to a retailer, who sells to a customer," says Shults. "The game got to the point where that kind of release could no longer be made profitable, so we decided to try something different. That's why we asked gamers to let us know that they support this endeavor by subscribing to the future of Ashes. We worked with Team Covenant to make the numbers work so that if we had at least 1,000 subscribers, we knew we could sustainably continue to make Ashes expansions. None of us knew what to expect, but it turns out we got over 1,000 subscribers in under three days! And so, Ashes has been reborn."

For those expansions to keep appearing, however, that subscriber count needs to stay above one thousand, so if you're a fan of Ashes and want to see more of it, keep introducing it to new players to try to get them hooked, too. Well, you might already be doing that anyway with every game you love, so carry on...

From gallery of W Eric Martin
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